Kevin Frisch: For GOP, a triumphant trifecta
In politics, as in life, sometimes you just get dealt a really good hand.
New York’s Assembly minority leader, Republican Brian Kolb of Canandaigua, held such cards during the previous legislative session. Democrats controlled not only his chamber but the state Senate and the governor’s mansion — and they made a botch of pretty much everything they touched: The governor had to resign; his successor was ineffective; the Senate was temporarily overtaken by a GOP coup; annual budgets were indefensibly bloated; and nary a step was taken in the direction of government transparency or reform.
All Kolb had to do was talk common sense — which he did, beating the drum for a Constitutional Convention and more responsible budgeting, among other things — to seem like the only grown-up in Albany. The fact that he was not only on the right side of the issues but that his targets were of the opposite political persuasion — well, I never heard him complain about it.
Congressional Republicans find themselves holding a similar hand as they size up President Obama across the Capitol Hill poker table.
Sent to Washington on a declared mission to cut spending, a’cutting they have gone. The bill passed in the Republican-led House to fund government operations for the rest of this year includes $61 billion in spending reductions (down from the $100 billion initially sought, but still quite a chunk). Score one for the GOP.
The targets of those cuts, by and large, are agencies and programs towards which conservatives are traditionally hostile: Public Broadcasting, Planned Parenthood, Head Start, home-heating aid. Score another for the GOP.
And estimates are that the cuts will prop up unemployment in the next two years by eliminating jobs totaling anywhere from 200,000 (Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s estimate) to 700,000 (Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi’s estimate) — thus bedeviling President Obama’s efforts to hold the White House. Score one more for the GOP.
No public servant is going to hope for high unemployment, I’m not suggesting that level of cynicism in Republican budget-cutting proposals. But it is widely believed a jobless rate above 8 percent is an all but insurmountable hurdle for a sitting president seeking re-
election. Writing of Friday’s dip in the unemployment rate, Paul Bedard of U.S News & World Report said, “The surprise job growth was exactly what several economists and political advisers said would have to happen if Obama was going to be able to shake off concerns about joblessness and keep his job.”
So if persistent unemployment is the cost of reining in government spending by terminating initiatives they didn’t like in the first place, well, one could imagine Republicans swallowing that pill with a feigned frown.
Delivering on spending cuts. Doing away with long-reviled programs. And complicating the president’s re-election efforts. That’s a pretty good hand.
As they size each other up while gambling over a government shutdown, it will be interesting to see what cards Obama plays.
Contact Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or via e-mail at email@example.com.